Coming off a disappointing rookie season in the AHL last year, Kole Lind is entering the 2019-20 season with the belief that he can bounce back and prove once again that he is a high-end NHL prospect. Lind joined the Utica Comets last year for his first full professional hockey season after dominating the WHL with 224 points in 204 games, but struggled to translate that success to the AHL level.
Lind has always been an emotional player. In the WHL, he was at his best upon returning to the Rockets lineup fresh off being cut from the Canadian World Junior team. Playing hungry and pissed off, Lind tore through the league for the remainder of the season, including a particularly offensive and physical outburst in his first game back in Kelowna.
— Deegan Ludwig (@DeeganLudwig) December 16, 2017
Kole Lind and Tyler Lees get into a spirited fight after a battle in the corner. A couple SOLID shots landed by each. Still 4-0 Rockets here in the third.
— Darren Dupont (@darrendupont) December 17, 2017
Kole Lind with three assists today. He’s up to 16 goals and 42 points in 25 GP. #Canucks
He has 6 points (3+3) since being cut from team Canada. #WJC2018
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) December 17, 2017
I interviewed Lind a few weeks back for Canucks Conversation and wanted to continue the conversation with him at training camp upon seeing the way the work he put in this offseason was manifesting itself on the ice. Lind came into training camp this season looking bigger, stronger and faster all while matching up against NHL veterans. After a summer of hard world, the 20-year-old looked and felt physically prepared to match up against the same players who had pushed him around just a year earlier.
“I feel really good”, said Lind. “Obviously I worked hard this offseason especially for camp and I want to try to make a statement to the coaches and the management. I think that was a big thing coming off of an off year. I think that was big for me to come have a couple of good first skates and try to get my confidence going early. I feel better in compete and battle drills, it feels a lot better. I’m not getting pushed around as much, I won a decent amount in camp and it feels good, I feel a lot more confident this year than I have past years for sure.
He wasn’t kidding. Lind looks like a different player this year, his skating stride stronger and his stick work markedly improved from where it was last preseason.
Lind knows he and fellow 2017 second-round pick Jonah Gadjovich need to improve on last year’s performance, and cited the hard work both players put in over the summer as reasons for optimism heading into this season:
“I thought we both had big offseasons. We both worked really hard, especially [because] we had to come back and have better years than last year and we obviously expect a lot more of ourselves so I think that’s something that Gadj and I both really pushed towards being better and stronger this year.”
Lind returned to Shaunavon, Saskatchewan for much offseason, providing him with a much-needed contrast to upstate New York.
“[I] got there for a few days on the weekends, worked out in Saskatoon. Good to see family one last time before I take off for most of the year. Summer is better than winter in Saskatchewan.
Lind wore #78 for the Comets this season, and I asked him if he intended to keep the number long term. “Once I get to the NHL I’ve got to decide,” he replied. “I’ve got to get there first and then ill figure it out. Our family number we always had growing up was 13, I had that in Utica last season. 16 in Kelowna, 15 in midget. Somewhere in the teens is good. Having a high number is pretty cool to for sure.”
I joked about #78 being for a flashy type of player.
“Exactly,” he chuckled.
Overall, Lind appeared to be holding his own against potential NHLers, so I asked again about playing against them and what he has learned at this camp that he didn’t necessarily learn at previous camps.
“It’s going to be tough no matter what, as much as you work in the summer its still going to be hard. its not going to be easy and obviously I think it’s going to take a little time to get used to. you cant just expect to go out there and run the show. That’s something I’ve got work towards and try to get game sin first and then worry about taking the next step after that.”
For Lind to take that next step, he’ll likely need a seal of approval from Canucks’ bench boss Travis Green. When asked about his relationship with Green, he had this to say:
“It’s good, he gave me a call in the offseason to check in on me and make sure I was working hard and keep be accountable for a number of things this summer that I wanted to push myself to this summer as well. I think we’re on the same page there and he obviously likes to push me in practice and also give me little tips as well.”
Increased point production would likely be enough to earn Green’s attention, and it’s an area where Lind thinks he can improve this season:
“First things first I want to put up numbers at the AHL level, I think the first thing I wanted to do is to come out and make a serious statement in camp that I am serious about what I’m doing this year and I want to prove people wrong. That’s some last year that pissed me off. So this year I am ready to go. I’m just going to go out there and make a statement and then start producing at the AHL level and then push from there.”
Lind has put in the the work and will return to Utica with the right attitude. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Lind this season, having weekly conversations with Cory Hergott and following his development in Utica with my own eyes as much as possible. With the recent additions of Sven Baertschi and Nikolay Goldobin to the comets lineup, it will be interesting to see where Lind fits in on what is becoming a talented forward group in the AHL.
Lind definitely has more in him than he showed last season, and him saying wasn’t happy with how it went was exactly what I wanted to hear. Lind plays his best hockey when he’s pissed off, and if things go like they did last time, we could be talking about a call-up by the end of this season.